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Manhattan lands verbal commitments from three 2014 prospects

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A program landing three verbal commitments on the same day is something that tends to happen far more often in college football than in college basketball. But don’t tell that to the Manhattan Jaspers, who were on the receiving end of such good fortune as reported by Zach Braziller of the New York Post.

Nazareth HS teammates Samson Akilo (a 6-8 forward) and Samson Usilo (a 6-4 guard), both natives of Nigeria, made the decision to join head coach Steve Masiello’s program Wednesday evening.

“They’ve been talking about it for the last few days,” said Naz coach Todd Jamison, who praised the recruiting job done by assistant Rasheen Davis. “They called me, said, ‘Coach, we want to do this,’ and I said, ‘OK.’ Now they can concentrate on the season. There’s no more stress. That’s it, they know where they are going to school.”

On the heels of their decision, 6-7 forward Calvin Crawford (Middleton, N.Y.; will attend St. Thomas More in the fall) announced his decision to become a Jasper as well. According to CBT’s Terrence Payne, Masiello observed all three at the BasketBull Summer Championships in Ardsley, N.Y. last weekend.

Manhattan struggled with injuries last season, with primary scoring option George Beamon going down early in the season with a season-ending ankle injury. But Masiello’s squad managed to go 9-9 in MAAC play and reach the title game of the MAAC tournament, where they fell by three points to rival Iona.

The 2012-13 season did feature the emergence of forward Rhamel Brown as the best defender in the MAAC, and the addition of Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey should make the Jaspers a formidable squad inside.

Manhattan’s an experienced group (the return of Beamon will definitely help matters), and with a full roster they’ll be able to go back to playing the uptempo style coach Masiello prefers. The bolstered rotation (Manhattan also adds a four-member recruiting class) should make the Jaspers a contender in the MAAC in 2013-14.

In two seasons at the school Masiello has a record of 35-31, lifting up a program that struggled mightily prior to his arrival. The ultimate goal: leading Manhattan to its first NCAA tournament berth since 2004.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.